Networking is one of the key components to getting a job, keeping your job, and moving along your career path. It’s a vital part of your career development, no matter what stage of your career you’ve reached. Bad habits can derail your networks and take you off track. Here are 7 habits you should ditch for better networking.

1. The temptation to network only with people like you.

The goal of networking is to meet new people who may open new opportunities. Always look for ways to network with people who think differently, who have different jobs, or have different skill sets. And don’t feel like it’s beneath you to network with those younger or inexperienced. You may find your next intern, or even the next Mark Zuckerberg. Try going into events with an open mind and find something interesting from each conversation. You’ll find that you’ll have a much more robust network when you go outside your comfort zone and meet people who you may not interact with on a daily basis.

2. The excuses.

I’m too tired. I’m too busy. I don’t know what to say. It’s too late. These are all excuses that can derail your networking strategy. Rather than making excuses, find strategies to overcome them. When you prioritize growing your professional network, you’ll find the time and energy to do it right. Make a plan, find the times and groups, and plan ahead with topics of interest. You’ll meet more people and be much more successful with your networking efforts when you leave the excuses out of your strategy.

3. The bad attitude.

Networking can be hard. It’s easy to have a negative attitude about the process if you go in with the wrong intentions. Check your attitude at the door and find the good in each encounter you make. By staying positive and keeping your ego in check, you’ll find many more opportunities that are valuable than you might think.

4. Your shyness.

Some people are more shy than others, and networking can be very difficult if you get nervous around people. With that in mind, networking events are oftentimes most useful for more introverted people. It’s an opportunity where it’s socially acceptable (and even encouraged) to walk up to strangers and talk to them. Jump out of your comfort zone and start a conversation. Practice makes perfect.

5. The urge to ask for more than you receive.

Too often people expect something from those they network with. Whether it’s help, knowledge, funding, recommendations, or advice, those that get the most out of their networking connections are the ones who give the most. Help others first, and you could receive much more in return. Find things you are good at and offer them to the community. You will find that when you have needs, people will jump through hoops to help you when you’ve opened doors for them.

6. The internet-only approach.

LinkedIn is a great tool, but it can become a crutch. Attend events, take part in conferences, and spend time on your craft outside of work. You’ll find that a connection forged with a handshake is going to hold up much more than one based solely online. Use tools like LinkedIn to keep up with your network, but never forget that the best way will always be in person.

7. The bad communication.

Answer your emails. Follow-up on voicemails. And don’t skip the small talk. In a world of technology where the personal touch is easily lost, being diligent about how you communicate is vital. There are few things more impressive when networking than being accessible and responsive. You will make a name for yourself as someone who is dependable, and you’ll get the most out of your networking opportunities.

Building a great network can take time and hard work, but the benefits are staggering. Don’t let bad habits keep you from reaching your potential and souring your hard work. Ditch the bad habits and be a networking superstar.

Featured photo credit: Kai Nicolas Schaper via flickr.com

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